Muse Power: How Recreational Music Making Heals Depression and Other Symptoms of Modern Culture (Chapter 4, page 2 of 13)


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Chapter 4

Prior to the 20th century, the concept of selling music wasn't really commonplace. One of the very first to consider music as a marketable commodity, was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. "In the mid-to-late 1700s, performers and composers such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart began to seek commercial opportunities to market their music and performances to the general public." (5 Wikipedia /Dear Constanze The Guardian) Before that, in more traditional cultures, the Griots, bards, and musicians were cared for by their communities, as equals in the tribe doing their part to contribute. In Europe, up until the 1700's music was supported by patronage from the aristocracy, or the church, and so there was no need for artists to sell themselves; and so the concept of selling music had just not yet come to be.

A crucial change in the history of folk music began during the twentieth century with folk artists adopting the very western concept of "marketing for money," or "selling" the music of the people. In this time, a new genre of popular music arose that basically became an imitation to the original traditions of folk music as it was sung by ordinary people. These "folk" artists marketed themselves alongside more popular and modern emerging artists and created a niche for themselves by performing traditional music and songs in amplified concerts, and disseminating their work by recordings and broadcasting. Such artists included Pete Seeger, Burl Ives, Jimmie Rodgers and Woody Guthrie who began by singing songs his mother had sung to him as a child. Also are performers such as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell, all of whom took folk to new levels by writing music that represented the feelings of the people of their times. Folk Rock came about and folk, as a popular genre quickly evolved to be quite different than its original roots, creating a form of music that shifted the experience from it's original essence of participatory to more of a spectator experience over time, as the original older songs were forgotten and the idea of capitalizing on folk songs got firmly rooted. (5) Also in the 20th Century, the "Extravaganza" arose which was a form of lavish and elaborate theater. The shows were considered sexually titillating, with women singing bawdy songs dressed in nearly transparent clothing and were widely criticized by the media and churches of the day. David Ewen described this as the beginning of the "long and active careers in sex exploitation of American musical theater and popular song." This new genre also was emerging at the same time that what I call the "Glamorization" of music and musicians was emerging. To glamorize means to make something seem more interesting, romantic or desirable than it really is, or to "hype" it up beyond itself. It was during this time that people began to idolize artists, and physical appearance, sex appeal and "star" qualities began to be as, or more, significant than musicality or skill. Again, the very western concept that music even requires or necessitates a "star" quality or "special talent" is something worthy of noting for it's deviation from truth. Music is a basic human potentiality, a natural occurrence in the human species, as we've looked at in chapter 2 and can come thru all shapes, sizes, and forms with equanimity and variance. Music has nothing to do with sex appeal or glamour!

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